How painful is childbirth scientifically

Dealing with birth pains

Childbirth is a physical and emotional challenge, and good support is the most important help. It is a relief for many women to have someone around who encourages and makes you as comfortable as possible, perhaps massaging your back or preparing heat packs. This can be, for example, the partner, a friend or the midwife.

Having reliable support not only helps you get through the exertion emotionally: Research has shown that continuous support can shorten the length of time you have to give birth and also reduce the likelihood of using pain relievers.

Midwives are well trained and very experienced in figuring out how to best manage pain for a woman. You can react immediately while the action is taking place and explain the possibilities. Sometimes women think they shouldn't bother the busy staff in clinics or birthing centers with too many questions. Getting answers, however, is a crucial part of the support needed in this situation. For example, stress and fear can cause muscles to tense - that doesn't make it easier to deal with the pain. The traditional ways women have always used pain relievers to help themselves through childbirth include:

  • Change your body position - for example sitting upright instead of lying down - to find out which position is most comfortable.
  • Walk around when possible. Walking and moving can help to alleviate the pain and make the birth process easier, or perhaps even faster.
  • Try cold or warm packs. This can relieve pain - especially back pain, which is often associated with birth pains.
  • Breathe calmly and deliberately or try to pant.

Posture is particularly important during childbirth. If, for example, the baby's head presses too deeply into the back, a different position can usually alleviate the discomfort and also make pressing much easier. If the baby moves a little further or changes position, the mother can adjust her posture again until it feels better.

Prenatal classes teach techniques that can help exploit gravity during labor. Some women especially swear by certain positions or breathing techniques. What is perceived as helpful, however, is very individual - what is relieving for some may not be of much use to others or even bother them more.

Many women experience pain differently during childbirth than they experience other painful experiences - partly because the pain has a “positive goal” and because they know it will be over in the foreseeable future. Finally, holding the baby when it is all over is an overwhelming reward for all efforts for most women.